Saturday, June 2, 2012

Future of Europe Space Program Debated

Europe Seeks Competition For New Launcher

By Amy Svitak

May 28, 2012
Amy Svitak/Bordeaux, France, and Berlin

When the European Space Agency's council of ministers meets this fall to hash out a new multiyear budget, one of the key challenges it will face is how best to maintain Europe's independent access to space.
With potentially billions of euros in development funding at stake over the coming decade, ESA ministers must weigh the merits of continuing work on an upgrade of Europe's current Ariane 5 launch vehicle against a French proposal to begin work on a successor to the heavy-lift rocket. The debate will be shaped largely by the cash-strapped circumstances of ESA member governments, most of which are demanding an end to periodic Ariane 5 price supports. In addition, council ministers representing the 19-nation agency will seek to maintain Europe's technological independence from other space powers, even as ESA embarks on a more competitive approach to launcher procurement that could upend three decades of industrial policy in an effort to lower costs.


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